Closer in Waiting Power Rankings: May 21, 2019: Leclerc Nearing Return To Role, Three New Names To Have On Radars & More

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Are you someone constantly on the lookout for the next potential closer? That’s what we are trying to pinpoint here, with our Top 5 Closer In Waiting Power Rankings. These rankings look at the pitchers who appear capable of taking over their team’s respective closing duties (though in some cases, will need some help to get there). Keep in mind, if a pitcher is currently part of a committee they will not be included in these rankings despite not currently “holding” the job outright.

Without further ado, let’s look at how things stand (all statistics are through Sunday, unless otherwise noted):

1) Jose Leclerc – Texas Rangers (1)
Current Closer – Chris Martin/Shawn Kelley

It shouldn’t be surprising that Leclerc remains the top option on this list, even if he hadn’t gotten the support of his manager recently.  However after an impressive performance on Sunday (5 K over 2.0 IP) Chris Woodward was quoted by Jeff Wilson of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram (click here for the article) as saying “He’s real close,” when asked how close Leclerc was to returning.

Sunday’s outing was the culmination of a relatively strong run, outside of one poor outing where he struggled with his control.  Over his past six appearances (8.0 IP) he’s allowed 1 ER on 1 H and 4 BB, striking out 15.  Given his contract it makes sense that there’s talk of him returning to the role, and with the performance justifying the move it’s only a matter of time.

2) Jake Diekman – Kansas City Royals (2)
Current Closer – Ian Kennedy/Wily Peralta

Diekman had a small bump in the road this week, allowing runs in back-to-back outings.  Even with that, they are the only two runs he’s allowed over 8.0 innings in May.  Over that span he’s allowed just 2 H and 3 BB, striking out 16.  It’s been an impressive run, and it’s easy to argue that he’s a better option than both Kennedy (3.20 ERA/1.27 WHIP) and Peralta (6.20 ERA).  Of course there’s no one with more than 2 SV for the Royals, as this could simply remain an unpredictable committee.  That said Diekman has been impressive, and having not yet earned a save it’s easy to include him in here.  It may be only a matter of time before he forces the issue and seizes the role as his own.

3) Brandon Brennan – Seattle Mariners (NR)
Current Closer – Roenis Elias

This has been a bit of a messy situation all year long, with part of that being due to injuries opening up opportunity.  It appears that Elias has seized the role (3.04 ERA/1.18 WHIP helping lead to 5 SV), but given his history it also is easy to envision struggles coming (especially in terms of home runs allowed).  Enter Brennan, who has been as impressive as any reliever in Seattle with a 2.03 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over 25.1 IP.

He is a rookie, which could make for an argument to keep him out of closing.  He also has had some control issues, with a 4.24 BB/9, but even that isn’t enough to completely deter you.  That becomes especially true when you look at his 57.1% groundball rate and 10.03 K/9 (behind an impressive 16.4% SwStr%) entering play on Sunday.  Keep in mind that in 69.2 IP at Double-A last season he owned a 9.04 K/9, 2.71 BB/9 and 51.6% groundball rate, so there is the potential to maintain the impressive marks while also improving his control.

The question really comes down to his lack of experience at the upper levels and the potential for the Mariners to want to keep him out of the ninth in an effort to keep future arbitration earnings down.  When it comes to his performance, he deserves the chance and it may not be long before he forces the issue.

4) Adam Conley – Miami Marlins (NR)
Current Closer – Sergio Romo

Has Conley started to figure things out?  He did get a save recently, the day after Romo earned a 6 out save and was unavailable, and he’s now posted four straight scoreless outings.  It’s hard to envision Romo locking himself in all season long, and while Nick Anderson could emerge 4 HR over 18.0 IP isn’t going to get it done.

When it comes to Conley it’s the odd split that gives us reason for concern:

  • vs. RHH – .200/.273/.467
  • vs. LHH – .405/.476/.568

Last year he was significantly better against left-handed hitters (.179 BAA), so there’s reason for hope.  Throw in an overall .365 BABIP and 64.9% strand rate and there is some reason for hope.  He’s hard to fully trust, but given the situation there could be an opportunity.

5) Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals (NR)
Current Closer – Jordan Hicks

We aren’t close to a change, though there could be some people whispering after Hicks struggled on Sunday.  That said the presence of Martinez is going to lead to speculation that a change could eventually come.  It makes sense, though there also is talk that Martinez will ultimately return to the rotation.  If that’s the case it doesn’t make sense to thrust him into high leverage situations.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but for now he at least should be on radars.

Graduated from Rankings
All of these appear to now have at least a hold of their current closers role

  • None

Dropped from Rankings:

  • Yoshihisa Hirano – Arizona Diamondbacks (3)
  • Jeremy Jeffress – Milwaukee Brewers (4)
  • Carl Edwards Jr. – Chicago Cubs (5)

Current Committee/More Information Needed:

  • Baltimore Orioles – Mychal Givens/Paul Fry/Michael Wright
  • Boston Red Sox – Matt Barnes/Ryan Brasier/Brandon Workman
  • Los Angeles Angels – Ty Buttrey/Hansel Robles
  • Minnesota Twins – Blake Parker/Taylor Rogers
  • Tampa Bay Rays – Jose Alvarado/Diego Castillo/Emilio Pagan

4 COMMENTS

    • He does and I wouldn’t be surprised if he became part of a committee. I don’t see them simply handing him the role though

  1. So i got Heaney coming back. Would you drop him, Minor, or Mahle in a QS league? Elbow issues are worrisome. Thanks!

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